By Raphael “Rory” Dushman – MFT Intern
Becoming a BIG Sibling: How to Prepare for a New Sibling in Your Family
Congratulations, you are now a BIG brother or sister! But what does that mean for your family? What does that mean for your parents? The arrival of a second child is an exciting time for the whole family, but it is important to acknowledge that any significant change to the family system will require a shift by all parties to keep healthy and supportive family dynamics. If you’re curious about how to prepare for a new sibling, keep reading.
Parents are encouraged to help their first child adjust to the new addition and understand their evolving roles and responsibilities. By providing appropriate support and guidance, parents can create smooth(ISH) transition and foster a strong sibling bond. In this article, we will explore some tips on how to prepare your child for a new sibling and make this a joyous journey.
New Roles and Responsibilities
- Parental / Guardian’s Roles: Your roles are expansive and endless. When working with other partners, it is helpful to keep an open line of communication so that each adult figure can fill different roles with expectations for evolving and shifting circumstances. Your role will expand to nurture and care for both your children. Also, consider the role of being a support during the postpartum period and how that may affect the larger family system.
Balancing the needs of a newborn and an older child can be challenging, but ensuring that your first child doesn’t feel neglected is essential. Plan fun activities that involve just the first child, this way that child will not feel left out and will appreciate bonding with each of the individual parents. Allocate special one-on-one time with your eldest to reaffirm your love and make them feel valued. Encourage them to express their emotions and reassure them that their feelings are valid.
- First Child’s Role: For the firstborn, a new sibling can bring a mix of excitement and apprehension. They might feel possessive of your attention and may experience jealousy. Encourage open communication and talk about upcoming changes. Involve them in preparing for the baby’s arrival, like helping choose baby items or decorating the nursery. Make them feel like an important part of the process.
Tips and Tricks
- Set Realistic Expectations: Understand that the arrival of a new sibling can be overwhelming for your first child and you! They might regress in their behavior, such as bedwetting or seeking more attention. Be patient and reassure them with love and understanding.
- Read Books Together: There are many wonderful children’s books about becoming a big brother or sister. Reading these books together can help your child understand what to expect and normalize their feelings.
- Practice/Integrate Baby Care: If possible, involve your child in caring for other babies, like family or friends. Let them help with tasks such as diaper changes (under supervision), bottle feeding (with an empty bottle), or rocking the baby gently. This can boost their confidence and reduce anxiety about the arrival of their sibling. After birth, encourage your first child to participate in age-appropriate baby care tasks. They can fetch diapers, sing lullabies, or gently rock the baby’s cradle. This involvement fosters a sense of responsibility and bonding.
- Talk Positively About Siblings: Share positive stories about your own experiences with siblings or talk about their friends who have younger siblings. Highlight the fun aspects of having a sibling, like playing together and having a lifelong friend.
- Gift “From the Baby”: Before the baby arrives, consider giving your first child a gift “from the baby.” This gesture can create excitement and a positive association with the new sibling.
- Quality Time: Lastly, make time for quality family moments. Whether it’s a game night, movie time, or simply spending time together, cherish these bonding moments to strengthen the sibling relationship.
Welcoming a New Sibling to Your Family
Get excited! Welcoming a new sibling is a transformative experience for the whole family. By recognizing and addressing your first child’s concerns and emotions, you can make this transition smoother and lay the foundation for a strong and loving sibling bond that will last a lifetime. Embrace the journey with an open heart, and soon enough, your children will be creating cherished memories together, forming an unbreakable sibling bond.